Tuesday, October 30, 2012

1 - 2 - 3 And Nobody's Talking

At one point, our twins (Max and Miriam a.k.a the M&Ms) and Jake, (our son that's living with autism) were in diapers and no one was talking yet.  The twins would say "mama" and "dada" and make some cute sounds, but not much else.  You take your child to the doctor for the regular milestone checkups and then move on to the next errand that day - or so we thought.

Alex and Jake

Max and Miriam

At one memorable milestone check up for our twins, the doctor declared that they both have a speech delay; they needed to start doing speech therapy as soon as possible.  The justification for this was that they weren't speaking seven or more words consistently.  Now that we had an autism diagnosis in place for our firstborn son Jake, (who at the time was about three years old) there was going to be a hyper sensitivity to any other kinds of delays, or an untimely meeting of the milestones.  The good news was that the military did not delay any services for our family.  This is one of the many things that I have grown to truly appreciate about the military.

So what did this all mean? How can we possibly have more to handle at this point?  We were barely coping as it was.  What kind of challenge are we being faced with now and what is going on here?  The real question that was nagging at me for months on end was: is this a pure vanilla speech delay, or are there other flavors in store?  Could the twins also be on the autism spectrum?  They had great eye contact and would always turn when called their name (a common trait in detecting autism when this is a deficit).  They were only fifteen months old and being schlepped to speech therapy twice, a week by a mom that was running around like a chicken with her head cut off.  This was of course on top of all of Jake's therapies.  It was too early to tell.  It was going to be a wait and see sort of outcome.

For several weeks, the speech therapist could barely get the twins to say the word "go."  My heart was very heavy.  I didn't know what to think.  All I knew was that we have got to move forward with our lives, no matter how slowly.  Just keep moving.  Just keep going.  I have always heard that a second child starts to speak earlier then the first child; they have the firstborn as a talkative role model.  I also heard that it's not uncommon with twins to have developmental issues and to just be a little late in reaching milestones.  This kept Alex and me hopeful that it was just a speech delay; as they develop and grow, they will catch up.

We were more concerned with Miriam then with Max, because Miriam seemed to also have some sensory issues.  She was very particular with food, and would throw food off of her tray way too often.  She would also walk on her tip toes a lot, which really concerned us, as this often gets asked for autism detection.  We had her evaluated by both an occupational therapist, who then directed us to a physical therapist.  We learned that it's common to walk on tip toes when moving from one surface to another, like carpet to floor.  Thankfully these issues resolved themselves, and she did less and less of the tip toe walking as she grew, but she sure gave us a scare.  Max didn't have either of those issues, and we started to feel more and more secure that our twins were not on the autism spectrum.  Over time, it became clearer and clearer that we were only dealing a speech issue - pure vanilla.  My favorite flavor.

Meanwhile, the good news with Jake is that he was partially verbal.  He could mimic sounds and repeat some words.  This was a very positive indicator that he could learn to speak more functionally.  We couldn't know if his speech would ever be up to "normal" standards, but we knew that this was a very good thing.  It took me a year and a half of daily repetition to teach him to say "I want" or "give me," when he whined for something that he wanted.  Good thing our family has lots of stubborn disposition.

By the time that the twins already have done half a year of speech therapy, we moved to Montgomery, Alabama for our next assignment.  I welcomed this next assignment with open arms.  Our life was about to get much simpler and much easier.

To put things into perspective, I was driving close to two hours a day in San Antonio for everyone's programs/therapies that last half a year.  I was ready for a break.  Being in Montgomery meant that the twins would now enroll in the child development center on the base, (CDC) five days a week.  Jake's services were all going to be ten minutes away, with ABA therapy (Applied Behavioral Analysis) taking place at our home.  As I did in San Antonio, I started teaching music at a local university several times a week, and found a bunch of piano students right at our east side neighborhood.

Life was starting to look up.  The twins received once a week speech therapy, and withing a few months of being at the base CDC, we saw them blossom before our very eyes.  It turns out that some of the best therapy for them was to be in a military class with lots of other little kids.  We couldn't have been any happier.  They got better at following directions, became more independent and really, just came into their own; two cute little munchkins with funny things to say.

A few months ago Miriam, who was phased down to speech therapy once a month, completely phased out of it.  Just last week, Max went from the once a month to completely phasing out of therapy as well.  They are both going to get reevaluated withing a few months to make sure that they keep on naturally progressing.  Some of the light articulation issues that they still have is age appropriate and will naturally go away.  We made it through this hurdle.  We can breath a little lighter.  It is so important to not lose hope and never give up.  Keep the family unit functioning and keep moving forward, no matter how little or how slow.  At least we are not moving back.

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  1. Hi Lily! I am so glad you are blogging! you have a wealth of wisdom to share. I am glad that your life has settled sufficiently to allow time for this. much love from san Antonio.

  2. Thank you for sharing this blog with us! So glad things are looking up! Please say hi to your family for me! : ) Thao

  3. Again, very touching. Thanks for sharing. I am so glad that the twins are turning out ok. I know, being a twin, that twins can have their issues. Tricia and I both went to one therapy or another (but not that young). Love from Cleveland!! -Tracy

  4. Tracy, How wonderful to receive a lovely comment from a twin! Thanks for sharing about your experience as well. I hope you read my other posts too. Hugs to you and Cammy xx Lily